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The story of how ABB Robotics helps the export of the new Volvo S90 from China to the US

APAC ABB 1This summer, Volvo began exporting its new S90 long-wheelbase sedan from the Daqing manufacturing facility across the Pacific Ocean. The first 400 vehicles were transported to Tianjin for shipment, ready for a June delivery to consumers in the US.

The car is arguably is the most luxurious ever to be made in China by a global OEM brand. What is also notable is that a high-end sedan model made in China will be exported to the US market for the first time. The production of this model is ably supported by ABB Robotics.

Volvo Daqing Plant is the first Chinese plant that adopts the Volvo-ABB function package

Volvo Daqing Plant is the first Chinese plant that adopts the Volvo-ABB function package

Unlike the “localisation” strategy implemented by other carmakers in China, Volvo’s practice is to incorporate the Chinese production base into its global manufacturing and supply system.

The new models manufactured in Daqing will not only meet the domestic demands, but also be supplied to major markets like the US and Europe. ABB Robotics has become an important part of the modern plant in Volvo’s Daqing manufacturing base, which is built in line with its uniform global standards.

ABB Robotics has provided Daqing manufacturing base with applications and technical support for three major lines: body-in-white, press shop and paintshop.

Body-in-whiteVolvo Daqing Plant is the first Chinese plant that adopts the Volvo-ABB function package. ABB has supplied over 200 full function packages to its body-in-white workshop, each of which contains robots and corresponding welding controls, tip dressers, tool changes, sealing system, stud welding system, and self-piercing riveting system (SPR). The function package integrates the robots, the relevant peripherals’ application equipment and secondary development software to significantly improve the system’s overall commissioning cycle, operation safety and stability.

In addition, the uniform standards and application platforms, together with a user-friendly commissioning and interactive interface, simplify the general plan and control over the progress of projects. For Volvo, ABB equipment integrates side line, main line, door line, header line, fender line and adjustment line. The applications include handling, spot welding, SPR, laser welding and dispensing. The main line even uses the ABB Gate Framer station, meeting Volvo’s high standard and stringent requirements.

"ABB Robotics has provided Daqing manufacturing base with applications and technical support for three major lines: body-in-white, press shop and paintshop."

Press automationABB Robotics provides Volvo with a full line of integrated press automation, including IRB 7600FX linear 7-axis robots, visual alignment system, toolings and functions for more than 10 components, capable of producing both steel plates and aluminium plates. The Volvo S90 long-wheelbase sedan has large dimensions and complicated dies and requires high-precision robot coordination in component clamping and placing. Due to the large size of the parts and the special processes, the postures of placement are confronted with a number of requirements which include station reversal, half-way material turnover, spinning and separation. Therefore, high flexibility is needed for the automation production. ABB has provided not only high-performance pressing robots and a safe and stable automatic control system to help Volvo realise the complex production, but also a general monitoring and real-time production information display system to ensure the success, safety and efficiency of production.

Paint automation ABB Robotics has provided more than 30 paint robots, covering the full painting process and sealing process, from mid-coating, colour paint spraying to varnish paint spraying. The fully automated sealing line guarantees the consistency and reliability and China’s first water-based LASD automatic glue spraying station, just as ABB provided for the Volvo Chengdu factory in 2011.Volvo launched its global manufacturing strategy in Shanghai last year. Hakan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo, said, “Daqing manufacturing base will produce the most luxurious and top-of-the-line Volvo sedans. The Chinese automobile industry has entered a new era of global production and export that is ushered in by Volvo.”

“This marks a new chapter for Chinese automobile industry. This official export to America is the start of this model’s export to the whole world. In the future, it will be exported to Europe, including the Swedish market.” said Yuan Xiaolin, Global Senior Vice President of Volvo, President and CEO of Volvo in the Asia-Pacific region.

ABB has supplied over 200 full function packages to the body-in-white ABB has supplied over 200 full function packages to the body-in-white

Global model factoryThe Daqing factory is Volvo’s cutting-edge SPA (expandable framework) car factory and positioned as “a global model factory”. SPA gives more freedom to engineers. Models, powertrain assembly and electric systems differ from each other in complexity but can be fitted into the same SPA expandable platform framework to reduce production costs.

The export of the S90 long-wheelbase sedan to the US shows that China is well qualified in international fine production competition and serving global market. It also symbolises that the Daqing automotive industrial cluster can produce with world class quality. In the meantime, Chinese high-end manufacturing, represented by Volvo, is seeking to realise the “Intelligent Manufacturing” advocated by the Chinese government. ABB Robotics is very glad to be partner for Volvo to realise intelligent manufacturing and serve global market with high quality.

Centres of excellenceThe challenge of recruiting workers and the rapid rise of land, labour and raw materials costs in recent years prompted moves in central and western China to upgrade and transform the manufacturing sector so as to remain competitive. Industrial robots are emerging as a major solution.

ABB Robotics’ operations within China stretch back to 1994 and after more than 20 years of rapid development, ABB has become the only multinational company that builds industrial robots in China along the fully localised value chain, including R&D, production, sales, engineering, system integration and services. Currently, the ABB Robotics Shanghai production base, opened in 2005, has manufactured over 50,000 robots.

As the company continues to step up its localisation efforts, ABB Robotics launched a new application centre in Chongqing just last year. It’s the third one of its kind, joint ABB’s similar facilities in operation in Zhuhai and Qingdao. The application centres provide robots, applications, system integration and related customer services to integrate resource and to push the development of industrial robots in China. The Chongqing centre will especially meet the fast-growing need for industrial robots in automotive, 3C electronics and equipment manufacturing in southwestern China.

Chongqing, on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, is the largest industrial and commercial city in the region. The megacity is now home to major industrial clusters in industries ranging from electronic information, automotive and equipment manufacturing to chemicals, materials, energy and consumer goods manufacturing, under a government plan to revitalise the old industrial base.

However, the difficulty of recruiting workers and the rapid rise of land, labour and raw materials costs in recent years have prompted central and western China, represented by Chongqing, to upgrade and transform their manufacturing sector so as to remain competitive – with industrial robots emerging as a major solution to address these challenges.

After years of expansion, Chongqing has now become a key R&D and manufacturing base for ABB in China. The city is home to ABB Transformer and Chongqing ABB Jiangjin Turbo Systems, in addition to a comprehensive ABB regional service hub and an engineering centre, with a workforce of around 900 employees and a complete sales and service network.

ABB has participated in the construction of such key local projects as the Jiangbei International Airport, Nanchuan Stadium, Chongqing city light rails, Wanzhou Power Plant and Changan Ford’s factory.

“Smart technology such as industrial robots can help transform and upgrade the manufacturing sector, supporting China’s efforts in becoming a world manufacturing power,” says Dr. Chunyuan Gu, senior vice president of ABB Group and chairman and president of ABB (China) Ltd. “ABB aims to push the development of the robotic industry in Chongqing, support local industrial upgrade and help customers enhance competitiveness.”